Friday, August 21, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers embrace position changes

Leader sports editor

In the second week of preseason practices, the Cabot Panthers lost returning defensive end Bryce Crockom to a knee injury. It was originally thought the injury would have the 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior out for up to six weeks, but the loss was lessened recently after arthroscopic surgery revealed the torn meniscus was not as bad as originally thought. Crockom is now expected to return in three to four weeks, but there have still been major shakeups in the lineup in this week’s practices.

Projected starting fullback Kolton Eads has been working at Crockom’s position, while junior transfer Alex Roberts has shared carries at fullback with Eads.

Roberts, 5-6, 155, has impressed Cabot coach Mike Malham since his arrival, but he also still might play some defense in the secondary.

“Right now we’re definitely going to have Kolton at defensive end,” said Malham. “If Roberts has to play defense, we’ll probably rotate them at fullback, too. Kolton’s looked pretty good on defense. He’s strong and pretty fast.”

Cabot defensive coordinator Randall Black likes having Eads on his side of the ball, and is even more excited about the opportunities available when Crockom returns.

“Kolton’s getting better and better,” said Black. “The thing about him is, he’s going to work hard. He’s still thinking a little too much, but that’s just from not being used to it. He’s a lot better than when we started working him over there and he’s going to keep getting better. And when Crockom gets back, it’s going to give us some options and some diversity that’ll just make us better.”

Roberts transferred from Alaska, where he played for a much smaller 4A school in much different weather. Despite impressing the coaches, he admits the adjustment hasn’t been easy. Immediately after the team ran five gassers to close Thursday’s practice, a winded Roberts expressed the difficulties.

“It’s a lot more humid down here,” said Roberts. “Right now it feels like I’m breathing in chicken grease. But overall it’s been really good. Since I’ve got here I’ve had a lot of coaches supporting me and team members who were really good to me.”

Roberts has also had an eye-opener just about football in the south.

“It’s taken a lot more serious down here,” Roberts said. “It’s a lot better program than the one I was in. We didn’t have a lot of really great programs and teams are kind of scattered around. We have about seven or eight teams we’d play every year. And there’s a couple more bigger people here than up there. It’s more physical.”

Cabot runs gassers in units depending on position. Eads and Roberts both show their work ethic during those conditioning drills.

“They’re both at the front of their groups every time we run gassers,” Malham said. “They’re both guys that give 100 percent at whatever they’re doing, and that’s what you need.”

The Panthers take the field against another team for the first time on Monday when they host Lake Hamilton in a benefit scrimmage game at Panther Stadium. That controlled scrimmage is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at Panther Stadium.